Relationship Between Touchdown Drives And Explosive Plays

As many of you should know by now, explosive plays of 20 yards or more is a stat that’s always fascinated me when it comes to the NFL.

In my latest research that is centered around explosive plays, I wanted to find out just how many offensive drives that culminated in touchdowns that the Pittsburgh Steelers had last season that included plays f 20 yards or more.

According to my research, of the 37 offensive drives that the Steelers had in 2013 that culminated with a touchdown, 29 of them included either an explosive play or 20 yards or more, or a penalty on a play that resulted in 20 or more yards being gained. That works out to 78.4%, however, four of those drives started inside the opponents’ red zone, so in reality, that percentage is more like 87.9%.

Is that percentage high? While it would be a huge undertaking to research every offensive drive from last season that resulted in a touchdown, I did research the Seattle Seahawks 41 drives that culminated in touchdowns. 30 of those included at least one or more explosive plays or at least one penalty of 20 yards or more and when you remove the four drives that started inside their opponent’s 20-yard-line, that works out to 81.1%.

Passing explosive plays has never been an issue for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and there’s no reason to think that will change in 2014. If the Steelers running game improves in 2014, I believe he could easily reach the 50 mark.

So what about the Steelers defense last season?

I’ve already harped quite a bit about how they got killed last season by explosive plays, but here’s more for you to chew on.

Of the 39 drives that the Steelers allowed touchdowns on last season, 25 of them included at least one or more explosive play of 20 yards or more, or at least one defensive penalty that resulted in 20 or more yards being gained. Two of those drives started inside their own red zone, so that works out to 67.6%.

On the surface, that percentage doesn’t look that awful, but when you consider that five of those plays resulted in touchdowns of 60 yards or more, you can see that they didn’t even give themselves a chance to recover and hold the opposing offense to a field goal.

So how did the Seahawks defense fair?

Of the 20 offensive scoring drives that they allowed last season, 18 of them started outside of their own red zone and 14 (77.8%) of those drives included them giving up at least one explosive play or committing a penalty that moved the ball 20 or more yards. They also only gave up 38 such plays all season.

The basis of the Steelers defense run by Dick LeBeau is quite simple. Stop the run, tackle the catch and don’t give up big plays. If they don’t improve in those three areas in 2014, they can’t expect to make a serious run at a seventh Lombardi Trophy.

  • Caesar

    Excellent article. Just underscores to me even more the offseason mantra we have been hearing about needing “playmakers.”


    The stat that jumps out to me in this article is that the Seahawks D gave up 20 TD scoring drives and we gave up almost TWICE that number at 39.
    Regardless of how it happened, that figure right there shows that our problem last year was clearly a diminished D.
    Guess the D-heavy top picks of our draft were perhaps not by accident/how the board played out after all, huh?

  • cencalsteeler

    Dave… thank you for that article. This proves how the secondary was the weak link to our D last season. Clark and Ike swung the momentum to opposing teams waaaaay too much last season. The front handled itself respectfully, due to Foote going down and yes, I saw Vince get caught in the wash a time or two, but still the front was reputable. It was so evident when a run got to the second level there was absolutely no help. Clark was back there hoping someone else would make the tackle and when it was time, both he and Ike had tackling skills equivalent to a pop warner player. I’m o.k. with Ike’s coverage, but I hope he regains my respect this season on tackling.
    The facts are there for us to look up how many explosive plays our defense has allowed, but the momentum changes, the playing from behind, the deflated players, the half empty stadiums are something we can’t look up a factual stat on. For me personally, Clark, and to an extent Ike, were the weakness to our 2013 squad.

  • mem359

    I’d be curious how the Patriots did for these type of drives. When people complain about Labeau’s defense being bad, they usually use Brady dink-and-dunking as the reason why.